Crossing the Nullarbor near the WA border, exhausted and sick of being in the car, artist Holly Greenwood and her partner stopped off for a beer and some chips at a pub. ‘It was a Saturday and all the locals were crowded inside watching a footy game. Despite the fact we were in the middle of nowhere, there was such a familiarity about the place,’ she recalls. They got back on the road, and before they knew it, were again completely surrounded by red dirt and faded shrubs, as if the pub had been ‘swallowed up by the bush’.
Such encounters have been channelled into Holly’s Bush to Pub series, which is currently on show at Saint Cloche in Sydney. ‘They are a representation of the many towns and communities dotted across Australia, separated by vast and changing landscapes,’ she defines. While the land has been a persistent source of inspiration for the young artist, the way she sees and interprets it continues to constantly evolve. ‘I’m drawn to an Australian aesthetic that it disappearing – the old pubs with faded tiles and peeling paint that haven’t been renovated, and the places untouched by tourism,’ Holly explains. ‘I want to capture the sense of that before it disappears.’
Holly paints in her Paddington home, and also out among the landscapes her works depict. ‘Although I love the practicality and control of working in the studio, the immediacy and excitement of working either in a pub or out in the bush is inspirational,’ she says, describing working rapidly in a race against the weather, or throughout lively pub banter. It is in these scenarios that Holly finds she doesn’t have the time to worry about end results, and enjoys the process all the more.
Growing up in an artistic family, Holly was exposed to film from a very young age (as the daughter of an acclaimed actor) and was encouraged to express herself creatively. Art caught her interest in school, and she went on to study painting at COFA (now UNSW Art & Design). ‘I learned a lot there and made some amazing friends, however I felt I had a good structure at home in my studio, and so I discontinued the course… but continued to pursue painting in the way that worked for me,’ she tells. In between part-time work, Holly sought to make time for painting, but ultimately decided she needed to focus on it solely, to fully commit to producing work.
‘It’s challenging for anyone to forge a creative career, and to believe in yourself and keep going,’ Holly tells. For one, she’s found support on Instagram, where she’s made meaningful connections with other artists. ‘The challenge is to keep yourself motivated and maintain a structure within your practice,’ she reflects. ‘A trip to the bush helps me maintain momentum and clarity.’